5 Mistakes You May Be Making When Washing Your Hands

By Sara Bondell - March 02, 2020

After two Tampa Bay area individuals tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), concern for the respiratory disease now hits closer to home.

What’s one thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick? Hand washing.

Washing your hands is your best defense against germs. We are constantly sharing and transmitting germs by touching common surfaces, shaking hands and making physical contact with other people. According to the Centers of Disease Control, hand washing can prevent one in five respiratory infections. Cancer patients are especially vulnerable since chemotherapy and radiation wipes out their immune system. 

It’s important to not only wash your hands, but wash your hands correctly. Here are five hand washing myths:

1. I only need to wash my hands after I use the restroom.

Touching common surfaces that other people have been touching puts you most at risk to pick up germs on your hands. You should wash your hands:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

2. Hand sanitizer is more effective than soap and water.

Soap and water is always the best option. While hand sanitizer can be a suitable substitute for on-the-go cleaning, it does not get rid of all types of germs and may not remove harmful chemicals and pesticides. If you are using hand sanitizer, make sure it is alcohol-based and avoid using hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty.

3. I only need to wash the palms of my hands.

Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed. Make sure you lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. You can hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice as your timer.

4. I can use baby wipes to wash my hands.

Baby wipes may make your hands look clean, but they’re not designed to remove germs from your hands. You should wash with soap and water whenever possible.

5. I don’t have to dry my hands after washing.

Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands, so always dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

 


 

You should follow these steps every time you wash your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure you lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer

Contact the Author

Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer 813-745-1353 More Articles

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